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A lot happened in the world of archaeology in 2022. There were long-lost tombs unearthed at Notre Dame, evidence that Neanderthals may have indulged in cannibalism on occasion, and much more.
In Roman-era Egypt, it was a archaeology news to place a painted portrait over the head of a deceased person. Now, scientists have reconstructed the face of a 3- to 4-year-old boy who died in the first century AD based on the painting, reports LiveScience. Using CT scans and dental records, they were able to determine his age and cause of death – pneumonia, possibly. The reconstruction is the first for an infant, and researchers say they found that the artist did not capture his facial proportions well – his nose was much narrower than in the portrait.
The mummy was unearthed in Gerza, southwest of Cairo, during the 10th season of excavations at a large funerary complex built during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. It houses six huge mud-brick tombs, reports Heritage Daily, and archaeologists have discovered rare artefacts including two full mummy portraits, as well as ruins of a funerary building and papyri with Greek and Demotic (an ancient cursive writing system) that describe the social, economic and religious status of local people.
It’s been over a century since the last Fayoum-style mummy portrait was uncovered, and this discovery is hailed as one of the most important in the past few decades. It may provide clues about the techniques and materials used by painters, as well as information about mummy burial practices, said researcher Adel Okasha. He noted that the mummies in the finds displayed a range of socioeconomic statuses, as evidenced by varying quality of embalming and funerary decorations. The team also found a rare terracotta statue of the Egyptian-Greek goddess Isis-Aphrodite, which is a sign of religious syncretism.
Scientists are now examining the remaining panels with noninvasive technology to analyze paint layers and other elements, such as wood types, binding agents and pigments. By studying multiple portraits, they hope to gain a better understanding of the work of mummy portrait painters, who had very few references to follow in the form of ancient texts.
Archaeologists love shipwrecks because they preserve valuable historic information about seafaring, warfare, and life on the water. They can also provide insight into what life was like for people at the time of a disaster. Historical wrecks, like the Mary Rose or the Batavia, reveal details about battles and life at sea during a certain period of history. But even treasure-laden ships can shed light on the lives of people at the time of their sinking. Pirates, for example, were not just a bunch of drunkards who met ignominious ends. Rather, piracy was an important and thriving industry during the Golden Age of Piracy from 1650 to 1730. In fact, famous pirates such as Henry Morgan and Captain Kidd had many years of success prior to their infamous deaths.
Last year, archaeologists found a cargo of well-preserved spices in a shipwreck off the coast of Sweden that sank in 1495. The find changed our “understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world,” according to the researchers who studied it. The Black Sea is one of the best places for archaeologists to uncover relics from this era because it is so deep, and its waters are free of oxygen, which keeps things intact.
But the preservation of shipwrecks isn’t easy. As a result of climate change and reduced ice cover, swells and saltwater can deteriorate the wooden beams and other parts of wrecked vessels. To slow the process, experts are watering the wreckage to prevent splintering and rusting. Moreover, careless visitors can also disturb a wreck. That’s why a group of archaeologists on Easter Island are implementing a plan to erect signs asking tourists to keep their distance from the site’s boilers, cannonball racks and propellers.
Researchers recently uncovered a fascinating discovery in Borneo that revealed an ancient medical procedure that may be far older than previously thought. The skeleton of a young hunter-gatherer has been dated to about 31,000 years old, and it appears that they had their lower left leg surgically removed as a child. It’s not clear if the surgery was done intentionally, but the fact that it survived suggests that ancient people had advanced medical knowledge and skills well beyond what they have been given credit for.
It was hard to tell if the leg was lost due to an accident or disease, but the skeleton shows that it wasn’t congenital. There’s no thinning of the bone, which would have occurred in the event of an infection, and the ends of the bones are intact, suggesting that the amputation was intentional rather than caused by an injury. The remains also show that the person lived for many years with a foot stump, indicating that they were able to move around despite their condition.
Archaeologists used a combination of morphological, osteometric and radiographic analysis to come to their conclusions. The fact that the limb healed to become a quiescent stump suggests that it was surgically removed before death, but other interpretations include judicial punishments or blade injuries.
The findings suggest that amputation was a common practice in prehistoric societies, but it’s still hard to determine why the operation took place. The buried man had many items buried with him, which usually indicates high social status, and there are no signs of infection or illness in the rest of his skeleton, so it’s likely that he was a healthy individual.
Archaeologists have a lot to sift through as they try to piece together human history. Bones, stone tools, and even traces of food can tell us much about past lives. But one incredibly useful line of evidence is often overlooked: piles of ancient poop.
Fossilized feces, known as coprolites, are invaluable for telling us what people ate, how they moved around the world, and how their health and diet changed over time. To become fossilized, poop must be buried in sedimentary environments where it will be protected from decay and possibly crushed by rocks or other organic debris.
To make these dungy clues more valuable, researchers have developed methods for screening them to discern their source and find out what they can tell us. Distinguishing between human and dog poo, for example, is difficult because the bones they leave behind look similar.
But new technology is making this process easier and more effective. As a new study shows, the method can be used to reveal important details about diet and the environment of prehistoric human settlements.
For example, the researchers analyzed coprolites (partially fossilized feces) found in trash heaps at the ancient settlement of Catalhoyuk, near modern-day Turkey. The poo contained the eggs of parasitic worms, revealing that inhabitants there ate offal — internal organs such as hearts, tongues, and livers that are often discarded or fed to dogs.
The findings may also help explain why the prehistoric city of Cahokia suddenly dwindled to nearly nothing around 1400 A.D. Other factors, including climate change, probably played a role, but this new evidence helps to strengthen the connection between those changes and population decline.
The biblical world, which spans thousands of years and crosses many regions of the Near East, is one of the most fascinating and influential in human history. The Bible is filled with stories of peoples and places, of kings and commoners. The study of these ancient societies helps us to understand the biblical text and its impact.
As interest in biblical archaeology picked up steam in the 19th century many foundations were formed to promote it. The Palestine Exploration Fund was among the most prominent. Archaeologists and clergy were recruited to work with British military intelligence to survey the Holy Land. The result was that the renowned Lawrence of Arabia and fellow archaeologist Leonard Woolley were able to make some of the most important discoveries in the history of biblical archaeology.
In recent decades, salvage excavations (as well as digs conducted for other reasons) have continued to produce important finds at sites such as Megiddo, Jerusalem, Tell es-Safi/Gath, and Lachish. This is no doubt due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has made archaeological work in the region difficult or impossible at times.
Despite the challenges of working in the region, researchers continue to make some very impressive finds. For example, an ossuary containing the skeleton of a man named Jehohanen that had a nail embedded in his heel bone was discovered. This was a first century tomb that contained the remains of a person who had been crucified and it has become known as the number one discovery in biblical archaeology related to the New Testament.
It is also important to note that the field of biblical archaeology has developed over the past few decades into a sophisticated, vibrant and constantly evolving discipline. It is now rare for naive or unsubstantiated connections between archaeological remains and biblical texts to be suggested.
In conclusion, archaeology continues to unearth fascinating discoveries, shedding light on our ancient past and enriching our understanding of human history. From unearthing ancient civilizations to deciphering long-lost languages, the field of archaeology remains vital in preserving and celebrating our diverse heritage for future generations.
- What is archaeology? Archaeology is a scientific discipline that studies human history and prehistory through the excavation, analysis, and interpretation of artifacts, structures, and other physical remains left behind by past societies. It helps us understand how past civilizations lived, interacted, and evolved over time.
- How are archaeological sites protected? Archaeological sites are protected through various means, including national laws and international agreements. Governments and heritage organizations work together to designate sites as protected areas, implement conservation plans, and enforce strict regulations against looting or unauthorized excavations. Public awareness and involvement also play a crucial role in safeguarding these invaluable cultural resources.